A New Experience

Being the adventurous person that I am, I decided to try something new. Everywhere I’ve been around town I see men are walking without their shirts on, and on their backs I keep on seeing these round purplish spots on their back. I asked one of my co-workers what it was and they told me it was a type of Chinese massage called huoguo (pronounced hog-war). Literally translated as fire cupping.

As Wikipedia tells me “with fire cupping, the practitioner uses various shaped cups that suction onto the back, drawing out the body’s toxins. By leaving the cups on your body, it pops the blood vessels in your skin. The cups are left on for about twenty minutes. Cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum by lighting a candle in a bowl and placing it on the patient’s skin. The therapy is used to dispel stagnation—stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving chi flow—to treat respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis. Cupping also is used on back, neck, shoulder and other muscular-skeletal conditions.”

So two of my friends and I decided to check it out. People told us that the best place to do it would be at the shower house. (Here in China, communal shower houses are very popular because many communities are so poor they can’t afford their own shower). We go in and using a few hand motions and the little Chinese we knew, we were able to explain that we want the fire cupping.

Once they understood, they took our money (not knowing what we paid for) and told us to take off our clothes. We felt a bit awkward hanging around Commando style and asked for towels to cover up with. They came back with hand towels. We explained that we wanted normal sized big towels, not washcloths, but apparently they were their larger towels. We end up laying face down in our boxers.

Fire Cupping

It started off with a full body massage. Then they put one fire cup on my back and move it up and down across my back. Then they started to scratch me with a razor, which really freaking hurt. (If you look at the pictures you can see the scratches on the sides of my body.) Then they placed about 10-15 cups on my back. Think of it as a face-lift but for your body. By putting the cups on your back it is pulling the skin back. Laying on the table you can barley move your arms or turn your head. It’s kind of hurts but it’s a good type of pain. When the cups come off, it’s a nice feeling, kind of relaxing really. Then once they removed the cups they gave me another massage. It was pretty expensive (for China standards as I’m sure they sold us the deluxe package) but it was worth it and it was a cool experience.

Cups comming off  These are popped blood vessels 

The final product


About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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